|Birth Day:||April 8, 1946|
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After a hunting accident, he lost a toe and had shotgun shrapnel embedded in his foot.
During his senior year in November 1963, Hunter's right foot was wounded by a brother in a hunting accident; he lost one of his toes and shotgun pellets lodged in his foot. The accident left Hunter somewhat hobbled and jeopardized his prospects in the eyes of many professional scouts, but the Kansas City Athletics signed Hunter to a contract. Hunter was sent to the Mayo Clinic that year so that surgeons could work on his foot. He recovered in LaPorte, Indiana at the farm of Athletics owner Charles O. Finley.
Finley gave Hunter the nickname "Catfish" in 1965 because he thought his 19-year-old pitcher needed a flashy nickname. A story circulated that Hunter's family gave him the nickname as a child when he went missing and was later found with a string of catfish; there is no truth to that explanation. Hunter never played in the minor leagues and his first major league victory came on July 27, 1965 in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. In 1966 and 1967, Hunter was named to the American League All-Star team.
Hunter continued to win games, and in 1974 received both The Sporting News's "Pitcher of the Year" award and the American League Cy Young Award after going 25–12 with a league leading 2.49 earned run average. The A's also won their third consecutive World Series. Hunter's statistics while he was with the Athletics were impressive: four consecutive years with at least 20 wins, and four World Series wins without a loss. He had won 161 games for the A's, 131 in seven seasons in Oakland and 30 in his first three seasons in Kansas City.
On February 11, 1974, Hunter agreed with the A's on a two-year, $200,000 contract with a clause stipulating that $50,000 payments be made to a life insurance annuity of his choosing in each of the two seasons. After Finley refused to make payment on the annuity after discovering he had to pay $25,000 in taxes which was due immediately, the breach of contract dispute was brought before an arbitration hearing on November 26, 1974. Twenty days later on December 16, arbitrator Peter Seitz decided in favor of Hunter, officially making him a free agent. Hunter recalled being scared after he was declared a free agent. "We don't belong to anybody", he told his wife.
Hunter has been the subject of multiple popular culture references. Bob Dylan wrote the song "Catfish" in 1975. the song was later released by Dylan, Joe Cocker and Kinky Friedman. In 1976, Hunter was also the subject of the Bobby Hollowell song "The Catfish Kid (Ballad of Jim Hunter)", which was performed by Big Tom White and released on a 45 RPM single. Hollowell was best friends with the young Jim Hunter while they grew up together.
In 1976, Hunter won 17 games, led the Yankees in complete games and innings pitched, and was again named to the All-Star team. The Yankees won three straight pennants with Hunter from 1976 to 1978. In 1976, Hunter became the fourth major league pitcher to win 200 games before the age of 31 and the only one since Walter Johnson in 1915, preceded by Cy Young and Christy Mathewson. Hunter was also a competent hitter, with a career batting average of .226; in 1971 he hit .350 with 36 hits in 38 games. After the designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973, Hunter had only two plate appearances in his final seven seasons, with one base hit in 1973.
Hunter is mentioned in the 1976 film The Bad News Bears. When Coach Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is trying to get Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal) to pitch for his Little League team, Amanda makes a number of outlandish demands (such as imported jeans, modeling school and ballet lessons) as conditions for joining the team. Buttermaker asks, "Who do you think you are, Catfish Hunter?" Amanda responds by asking, "Who's he?" In the movie Grumpier Old Men, an enormous and highly prized fish is named "Catfish Hunter" by the locals. In You, Me and Dupree, Catfish Hunter is mentioned by Owen Wilson's character, Dupree, convincing an Asian orchestra student that he can pitch: "First, call me Dupree 'cause I'm your teammate. Second, so what if you're in the orchestra? So was Catfish Hunter."
Hunter won his Opening Day start on April 7, 1977, limiting the Milwaukee Brewers to three hits over seven shutout innings in a 3–0 victory. He left the game with a bruised foot and was eventually placed on the 21-day disabled list with the injury, not pitching again for the Yankees until May 5.
Arm injuries plagued Hunter beginning in 1978. In spring training, he was diagnosed with diabetes and combined with his chronic arm trouble the disease began to sap Hunter's energy. Following the 1979 season and the end of his five-year contract, Hunter retired from baseball at age 33. Hunter won 63 games in his five seasons with the Yankees. He retired with appearances in six World Series and with five World Series championships.
Along with Billy Williams and Ray Dandridge, Hunter was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown in 1987. At the time, Hall of Fame officials would always defer to the player's wishes in determining which team would be memorialized on his Hall of Fame Plaque. Before and after his induction, Hunter spoke highly of his experiences with both the Athletics and Yankees and his appreciation for both team owners, Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner. For this reason, he declined to choose a team; accordingly, his plaque depicts him with no logo on his cap. He was credited by Steinbrenner as the cornerstone of the Yankees in their return to championship form.
In 1990, Hunter was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. In 2004, the Oakland Athletics began the Catfish Hunter Award. His number 27 was retired by the Oakland Athletics in a pre-game ceremony on June 9, 1991, the first in the franchise's 90 years.
Hunter died at his home in Hertford in 1999 at age 53, a year after his ALS diagnosis. A month before his death, Hunter fell and hit his head on concrete steps at home. He was unconscious for several days after the fall, but he had returned home from that hospitalization when he died. Hunter is interred at Cedarwood Cemetery in Hertford, adjacent to the field where he played high school baseball.
On September 5, 2018, Hunter was inducted into the Oakland Athletics first Hall of Fame class, with wife, Helen, there to receive the honor.
Catfish had three children with his wife Helen, whom he married in October 1966.
Currently, Catfish Hunter is 75 years, 0 months and 9 days old. Catfish Hunter will celebrate 76th birthday on a Friday 8th of April 2022. Below we countdown to Catfish Hunter upcoming birthday.